The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Furnishing and Decor Page 1 of 5

Storage Headboard DIY

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Happy Chinese New Year! This year’s zodiac animal is ox, which represents hardworking and progress. Hopefully the whole world will start moving again soon!

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Inside of my own house, the bathroom renovation has been static because Slav’s busy. I did manage to get some small DIY projects done myself and hang some art pieces, but honestly, I miss having a bathroom on the main floor.

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The latest DIY project I completed is a storage headboard for the Murphy bed:

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And now the Murphy bed area looks like this:

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The design concept

I have shown you how we installed the Murphy bed in my retreat room.

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However, the depth of this closet is 25″, a lot deeper than the required depth for the Murphy bed, leaving a significant gap.

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We knew at the time of installation that we needed a headboard to prevent pillows from slipping off the bed. In addition, we’d like to add a shelf above the bed for reading lamp, books and water or the night. Naturally, we decided to DIY this piece so it does not fit the space perfectly, but also can be customized exactly to our liking with the functionality we needed.

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I always wanted to give this wedge bolster pillow a try as a removable headboard. So the plan has always been to build a plywood box that fills the gap and also supports the wedge pillow from the bottom and from the back. This box should also provide internal storage for pillows and linen. Last, we prefer a floating design in order to expose the floor space for future refinish.

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The build

Unlike most of the furniture building, instead of completing the entire storage box in the garage then mounting it to the space, I decided to assemble this floating storage at the spot. This does not only save material, but also add structure integrity to the whole build as well as the closet. It also means that I will be measuring, cutting, and attaching different pieces to the side and back of the closet as I go.

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The first piece I cut was the bottom of the storage box. This board will support the wedge pillow, so I decided to place the bottom board just below the top of the mattress. The width of the closet measures 58″ at this height, and the unit should not be deeper than 14″ so the Murphy bed can open and close normally.

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So I cut a piece that is 14″ x 58″. Before installing it permanently, I popped it up with a stepping stool to the desired height and tested with the wedge pillow. Despite a 4″ gap between the mattress and the front edge of the board, the wedge pillow stayed in place well. This gap is required for the Murphy bed to operate normally.

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Having known that, I started with on the top surface  of the storage box. I wanted the headboard to be hidden from the front view, so I chose to have the top board sitting 16″ above the bottom one, just a dash lower than the top of the wedge pillow.

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The width of the top surface should be less than 12″ to accommodate the thickness of the wedge pillow.

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I cut a 58″ x 10″ plywood piece for the top. Again, before mounting it in place, I popped it up with a planter which happens to be 16″ tall as a trial run.

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Slav was around for this part of the operation and laughed that “your furniture design depends on the objects you had nearby…” Kinda true…But hey, it was the perfect height for the top surface!

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Since the closet already had plywood sides and back, both top and bottom boards can be directly mounted to the side wall panels. Now I only need to make a front panel, which functions as a door for internal storage access, as well as the backing board for the wedge pillow.

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I cut two pieces of plywood boards as the front panel so they are easier to open and close. They are both an inch taller than the top board, so when mounted vertically, they not only cover the whole front edge of the top shelf, but also create a small curb for the top shelf.

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As you can see, the design of the headboard is extremely simple. My goal has always been keeping the headboard construction minimal and completely hidden when the bed is in use, while satisfying all the features we want for the Murphy bed area: storage, back support, and a horizontal shelf.

The installation

With all the pieces cut to size, I edge banded the pieces and cut some scrap wood strips to link the top and bottom boards onto the side walls.

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To mount the front panels/doors, I used hidden hinges to connect the door panels to the top shelf.

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A few L-bracket were mounted on the bottom board as a stop, so the door panels can stay vertical without swinging inward.

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Then I placed the wedge pillow on the bottom board and in front of the doors – now we have the storage headboard for the Murphy bed!

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Just like we planned, You cannot see the headboard when standing in front of the bed.

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The space inside the storage headboard now stores allthe pillows and beddings we have for this bed. When we need to fold the bed up, the top shelf is perfect for storing the wedge pillow. Therefore, everything for making the Murphy bed is stored in the Murphy bed alcove without occupying additional closet space.

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The finishes

I switched the painting above the bed to a set of watercolor art, and added a white lamp and a couple plants:

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The large and cool-colored art toned down all the wood color, making this little alcove a bit lighter and more relaxed.

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And this is how he Murphy bed area look like now!

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This headboard build completed all the DIY build in my retreat room/home office. The best part of the project is that I used exclusively the scrape plywood pieces from the Murphy bed build and the gear closet build, so the only cost for this project is four hidden hinges for $2.75! (We had the plywood edge band, L-bracket and screws in hand.) This is the charm of DIY – functionality, perfect fit, and saving!

Mounting and Hanging Calligraphy Pieces

Chinese painting and calligraphy have been popular art decoration in Chinese household for thousands of years. I brought a couple pieces to the States with me, but never had an opportunity to display them:

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This ink and wash landscape art is the most popular form of Chinese painting. The other piece I own is calligraphy art:

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Chinese painting and calligraphy were drawn on Xuan paper which is soft and fragile. In order to display them, they have to be mounted onto some kind of backing paper first, before being inserted into frames or layered onto silk scrolls.

Dry mounting the calligraphy pieces

There are two ways to mount calligraphy art, wet mount and dry mount. Since I’ve never done either of the two ways before, I chose the dry mount method which looks more foolproof. The dry mount method involves first mounting the art piece onto silicone adhesive paper, then transfer the art to some kind of backing paper. To mount the art pieces onto the silicone adhesive paper, you need an iron, a spray bottle of water, and some thin paper to layer between the iron and the art work. I used a regular clothing iron with parchment paper (for baking).

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You also needed a soft but supportive surface to iron on. Since my art pieces were large, I spread a flat sheet on top of our big coffee table which worked very well.

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I unrolled the silicone adhesive paper, trimmed it a hair narrower and shorter than the art piece, then layered the art work on top of it.

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Then I gently misted the art work with water using the spray bottle. This step is for releasing the tension in the Xuan paper and reduce wrinkles and fold marks. Pay attention to only mist small amount of the water on the art work – the Xuan paper should not be soaking wet. And you do not want to get water on the silicone paper because that will add wrinkle to the final result.

After spraying the Xuan paper wet, I carefully laid the parchment paper on top of the art work, and immediately started ironing. A safe tip is to mist the art work first before even laying it on top of the silicone adhesive paper – and you can always mist the back of the painting instead of the front.

Definitely, definitely do not use the steam function on your iron – it will smear the art and even melt the Xuan paper. Iron the art onto the silicone adhesive paper using low-temp setting (such as silk).

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This particular art piece is nearly 5′ long, so I started ironing from one end, and worked my way up to the other end.

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The silicone adhesive paper is supposed to function as a double sided tape, either to connect the art piece to backing paper for framing, or to connect the art piece directly to a hanging scroll. However, I found that the silicone paper was rigid enough and could serve as alternative backing paper. So I did not use backing paper in this project.

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I used the same method to mount the calligraphy piece. It is smaller so the final result was better:

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Spray, layer, then iron. I worked this piece from the middle out to the sides, so there was no wrinkles at all:

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The dry mount method is fairly straightforward. It only took 15 minutes to get both pieces mounted.

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Framing the calligraphy

To frame the calligraphy I ordered a black frame online. The frame is made with solid wood and acrylic sheet, with a foam board backing. The construction is decent, but a bit too pricy in my opinion. I should have made my own frame with solid wood and glass for much cheaper, but considering the hours involved in DIY frames I decided to go with the easier route.

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I hung the calligraphy piece in my retreat room. I think it pairs well with the hanging plants and bamboo blinds. This piece says “Heaven rewards those who are industrious; The virtuous bear duties onerous”. A more literal translation will be “The Heavens are in motion ceaselessly; The enlightened exert themselves constantly. While the Earth is supportive and natural, Only the virtuous can bear the utmost”.

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Hanging the ink painting

Displaying the ink painting is a bit more difficult. Traditionally, Chinese paintings are displayed on silk-brocaded hanging scrolls with wood rods at the bottom to weight the piece down. However, any hanging scrolls I could found online was too small for this landscape art.

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The simplest way I could think of to display the painting is to add two wooden edges on the top and the bottom of the painting. In this way I can hang the art from the top wooden edge, and the bottom edge can weight down the painting just like the wood rod on the hanging scroll.

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I found a scrape 1″ x 2″ wood piece, cutting it to length to create two wooden edges.

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I shaped the ends of the two wooden edges like arrowheads for a better look.

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To secure the wooden edge onto the painting, I added another piece of scrap wood at the back, so the painting could be sandwiched in between the two wooden pieces.

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To joint the two pieces of wood together, a nail gun was used with the painting in between.

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It looked like this from the front of the painting. We used the same method to create the top edge, then installed mounting hardware on the back of it.

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With a couple pieces of scrap wood and 20 minutes of my time, the simple mounting method is easy and effective.

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The landscape painting was hung in our basement media room, accompanied by a couple large-scale of oil paintings. I think the white empty wall in this room allows large-scale paintings to be the focus of the room.

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The final results

Here are both of the art work in our home! The results from dry mounting and DIY hanging scroll are satisfying. I like the dose of traditional vibe these art injected into my home. Both art work was actually drawn by a good friend of my parents, whom I called uncle growing up. After years keeping his art work in drawers and collecting dust, it feels so nice to finally having them displayed and appreciated.

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What do you think of the results? Do you like traditional Chinese art?

Moving into the New Master

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Merry Christmas, everyone! We are having the coziest Christmas in our new basement master. Having never slept in a basement before, I am glad to report that I like basement living! The new master is quieter, warmer, and more comfortable. Although bigger, with the furniture placement and blackout blinds, it feels cozier. More importantly, it feels private. Much more than sleeping on the main floor with big windows that seeing into the neighbors’.

The east side: the sleeping quarter

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Our king bed is placed directly under the egress window we put in earlier this year. The new window let in bright light during the day, and effectively blocking cold air at night – we do not feel any cold draft during our sleep.

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For lazy mornings in bed we installed a blackout blinds on all the windows. I am very impressed with the quality and effectiveness of the these blinds. They are from IKEA and only around $45 a pop, but they are as effective as those $150 Bali blinds in big box stores. You cannot tell day from night when the blinds are closed. My tip is to get blinds a few inches wider than the window opening to reduce the daylight escaping from the side.

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Behind the bed we added a pair of velvet darkening curtains on each side of the blinds. I was really going with a grey on grey look and I like how the two colors and textures play with each other.

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For bedside tables we used the floating nightstands I built earlier this year. With wall scones above we each have our little corner to recharge, hydrate, and relax before bed.

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Here is Slav’s side:

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The theater masks were acquired on our recent trip to New Orleans in mid-November.

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I joked that it was our “renovation moon” because we took this trip right before the last push of the basement reno. It was after the DIY flooring installation, but before the shower door and the plumbing work in the bathroom, as well as the PAX assembly. It is amazing how long ago that moment felt with all the tasks completed even it was merely 6 weeks ago…

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Looking into the bedroom from the bath

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This is a view from the bathroom looking into the master. The oil painting features the castle in Slav’s hometown and it is his favorite childhood place.

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The small heater I’ve had since 2011. It is one of the first pieces of furniture I bought after moving cross-country and starting my first job. It not only puts out good heat, but also can give out just ambient light that looks like wood burning fire. Roxie loves to sleep in front of the fake fire.

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The west side: walk-through closet

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Stepping back from the bed is the closet area. We created a walk-through closet with three IKEA PAX wardrobes. They fit the space well and provide generous storage for all of the soft things. With the sliding door they give more of furniture appearance than traditional built-in closets.

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Slav and I both love the bamboo sliding doors. Mirrored doors were chosen for the corner closets to lighten up the room as well as to add function.

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The bamboo is darker than the color of the flooring, but I think they look great next to each other with the dark frame in between.

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For the space under the window we found this perfect little bench. The space between the two wardrobe is 48″ 1/4 wide, and this bench is 48″! It was meant to be.

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It functions as a drop zone for coats and bags at the end of the day. Plus we no longer have to perform tree post while putting on socks in the morning.

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Tucked away is our new laundry basket near the main door. When looking for a new laundry basket we searched for something narrow for the space and tall for the capacity, which is harder to find then you might think. Fortunately, this one popped out on Amazon.

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I liked its organic shape and soft material. After a couple weeks of use I can definitely recommend it. The fabric is thick and the basket holds its shape well. It also conceals a week of laundry without any problem.

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Above the laundry basket I hung the first photo Slav and I took together – it was over 10 years ago! We look like babies. Slav took it with a tripod and I think he planned for it. I had no idea what the photo was for – didn’t even bother to take my sunglasses off. Ha!

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A look back on the flooring

Living with the NuCore flooring for a while, I can finally give more details about them. Overall we are very satisfied with this floor. It feels supportive and warm under the feet. I can walk on it with bare feet in the middle of the night without feeling cold or harsh, which speaks a lot for its insulation property.

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The NuCore is LVP so it is harder than pine flooring. It feels solid – probably because how individual pieces are interconnected. It is quiet to walk on and I do not feel any bounce to it. I also like its texture on my bare skin.

We have not spilled water on it yet so I cannot speak for its waterproofing quality. But I did tip over a big candle and hot wax spilled all over the floor. I cleaned it up with some warm water and a razor – it looks just like new again. Overall I will give it a 4.5 star and definitely use it in the basement again. The reason for the half star off? It is because of the dogs.

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When these doggy paws hit the floor it was loud! Our dogs are terrified of clipping nail, so we might have left their nails a bit too long. But it is the reality we live in. Moreover, the texture of the floor gives enough traction for human feet but not enough for doggy paws. I notice that the dogs skid around when running on this floor. Charlie has face-planted a couple times at the bottom of the stair landing due to the speed he carried down from the stairs. It definitely brings some unease to the dogs as well as us.

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So here you have it, our new master bed and bath. We still need to work on the doors and add baseboards. But for the holiday season we are grateful to have such a cozy and comfortable space to relax in. I will start working on the doors this week and hope for some good progress. However with old basement and non-standard size doorways it will take some persuasion. Check back in the next post, friends!

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